Secretary of State Cyrus Vance arrived here tonight and immediately heard a blunt warning from the Turkish foreign minister not to interfere in Turkey's lingering troubles with Greece over the divided island of Cyprus.
Vance, who has just come from Cairo where he wrestled with the serious rupture in Egyptian-Isareli peace talks, was first wished a pleasant stay in Turkey by Foreign Minister Gunduz Okcun who met him at the airport.
Okcun said Vance was know as the No. 1 troubleshooter in international affairs. We have some trouble spots in this region," the minister said, "but I don't think Mr. Vance will have time to be interested in spots such as Cyprus and Turkish-Greek relations."
The Okcun said: "we believe these issues could be solved by the interested parties without interference or involvement by any foreign or major power."
"The trouble spot which Mr. Vance would be interested in," Okcun suggested somewhat sarcastically, "would be Turkish-American relations."
Failure to resolve the impasse is not only the source of continuing political problems, but of increasing NATO military concern as well.
"Along the Central European front of NATO," an allied diplomat said here privately today, "we do everything to fine tune the engine of our defense machine. But here, the whole damn bottom of the car has fallen off and nobody can seem to fix it."
He was referring to the impact on the Turkish armed forces - the largest land army along NATO's southern flank - of the three-year-old congressionally imposed embargo against supplying U.S. military aid or equipment to this country.
he cutoff was imposed after a Greek-backed coup toppled the government on Cyprus in 1974 and Turkey invaded the island. It has turned the state of Turkish military equipment "into a shambles," an official said, and has also added to anti-American feelings here.
"The young officers see a plane crash and blame the Americans because they cannot even get spare parts under the embargo," he added, although some commercial sales are permitted. The Turkish armed forces are 90 per cent equipped with American weapons and supplies.
The deterioration of the southern flank of NATO and particularly the Turkish forces, which guard the Alliance's only long land border with the Soviet Union, is said to be the No. 1 concern of NATO commander Gen. Alexander Haig.
Still, the embargo, so far, at least, has not produced the desired result of forcing Turkish withdrawals or concessions that would settle the bitter dispute with Greece over Cyprus. Greece has pulled out of the NATO alliance, further weakening it militarily.
Aside from special White House emissary Clark Clifford's visit early last year, Vance is the first top official of the Carter administration to come here and the first Secretary of State to visit since Henry Kissinger came in May, 1975.
Although the Vance visit is brief and at least partially accidental, it has sparked hopes here that it could mark the beginning of the end of three years of steadily worsening relations between Washington and Ankara.
While the key issues remain, there are also several new factors.
The Turkish Parliament installed a new government earlier this month headed by center-left Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, the former head of government who ordered the Cyprus invasion in 1974 but who stepped down soon after and had been out of power ever since.
In his first few weeks since resuming office, Ecevit has publicly stressed his desire to find a negotiated Cyprus solution with the Greeks and has been cultivating his image as a statesman and intellectual.
Five American senators - Abraham ribicoff (D-Conn.), Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), Ernest Hollings (D.S.C.), Howard Cannon (D-Nev.) and Harrison Williams (D-N.J.) - visited here last week, met with Ecevit and apparently were impressed. Four of them had voted for the embargo three years ago.
Yesterday, Ecevit announced that Turkey had completed new proposals for a Cyprus settlement which would be submitted to U.N. Secretary General Kurt Waldheim late in February and which, it is hoped, will lead to renewed Greek-Turkish negotiations in March.
Ecevit also called yesterday for a meeting between himself and Greek Prime Minister Constatine Karamanlis. The Turkish Foreign Ministry announced that Greek and Turkish specialists would resume talks in Paris next month on another bitter dispute - oil drilling rights on the Aegean shelf.
The Vance meeting came about because of a chance comment by Ecevit to American officials that he wanted to get a direct, overall view of U.S. foreign policy after three years out of office and the advent of a new U.S. administration. Vance, on a trip to the Middle East, quickly agreed. He will go from here to Athens on Saturday.
Vance's visit here is also being viewed as some recognition for Ecevit's immediate efforts on Cyprus, although no details have been made public yet.
The key new factor is that Ecevit, unlike his predecessor, says that a Cypress settlement is demanded by Turkey's national interest and promises to seek it without conditions. This means, he says, that he will seek it no matter what happens to the U.S. arms embargo.
Allied officials here call this change "dramatic," in comparison to former Prime Minister Suleiman Demirel's view that he could not move on the Cyprus question unless the arms embargo was lifted. The congressional action itself linked the two issues.
The problem is extraordinarily delicate. Turkish leaders argue that not only is a lifting of the arms embargo essential to maintain Turkish and NATO defenses, but that the embargo is counterproductive because it encourages Turkish rigidity on Cyprus rather than Flexibility.
in this view, no Turkish politician could survive making concessions on the volatile Cyprus question if the public here believed that he had done so because of U.S. pressure.
So, while Ecevit may get his briefing on East-West relations from Vance at a working dinner here tonight, the Turkish leader i also expected to tell Vance that Turkey and Greece must be allowed to settle their dispute without American threats. He is also expected to say that the arms embargo is irrelevant to a Cyprus settlement but that it is very relevant to U.S. Turkish relations and Turkey's position within NATO.
Ecevit clearly would like the Carter administration to ask Congress to lift the embargo, but would leave that until a time in the future to avoid the impression here of any linkage to whatever concessions the Turks may offer the Greeks on Cyprus.
Ankara argues that congressional unwillingness to approve a Ford administration attempt in 1976 to provide $1 billion in military and over a four-year period is causing economic strain, since higher Turkish defense expenditures have caused reductions in other parts of the national budget.
In the meantime, despite traditional suspicion here over the years towards the Soviets, Moscow's aid to Turkey is growing steadily and the Soviets are now said to be Turkey's largest single aid provider.
Finally, both Allied and Turkish sources here seem to feel that if some breakthrough is not made soon on either the arms or the Cyprus questions, the "glow"and opportunities of the new Ecevit government will fade.